While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, it continues to alter the future of work as we know it. An Upwork survey found that one in four Americans will be working remotely this year and approximately 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025 — an 87 percent increase from before the pandemic. From job interviews to the regular day-to-day, remote work appears to be here for the long haul.
I, for one, never thought I’d start a new job remotely this past year, but I did. While it might seem like an unusual way to integrate into a new company, it’s not as challenging or unusual as some may think. During the summer of 2020 — in the midst of the pandemic — I interviewed for and accepted a job with Opendoor and onboarded in a completely remote environment.
When it comes to remote interviews, they aren’t all that different from in-person interviews. The standard advice still rings true — dress the part and look presentable, be on time, be engaged, ask questions and send thank you emails following your meeting.
However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind when interviewing remotely. Here are a few tips to ace your virtual interview and land the job, whether you’re new to the workforce or an industry vet.
1. Ask the Recruiter What You Should Expect and Get Familiar With the Technology
Asking questions is a good habit to have. It helps uncover certain challenges and find better solutions. And in many ways, it’s a sign of strength and critical thinking skills.
So don’t be afraid to ask a recruiter questions ahead of your interview. For example, once your interview is scheduled, make sure you know what video conferencing tool the company uses and test it out a few times. The last thing you want to do is download the software at the last minute and fumble with the settings right before the call.
It’s also important to know if the interview will incorporate other external tools. Remote interviews, especially for more technical roles, will likely use resources like pair-coding or whiteboard resources. For example, in my Opendoor interview, I used Coderpad for the technical interviews. Similar to the video conferencing tool, ask your recruiter about any other technical resources. This way, you can familiarize yourself with the tools to ensure the interview goes as smoothly as possible.
2. Address Disruptions and Then Just Move On
Similar to any phone or video call, you should find a quiet space with decent internet to avoid screen freezing, lags and disruptive background noises. But remember it’s OK if your personal life interjects. Most employers will be understanding of certain situations.
During one of my remote interviews with a leader at Opendoor, my wife texted me saying we might have a gas leak in our house. I had to immediately stop the interview, disconnect from the call and go handle the situation. Opendoor was completely understanding and supportive. Nonetheless, it was definitely an abnormal interview experience that we joke about nowadays (especially since it turned out there wasn’t a gas leak).
Disruptions, even if they’re not as extreme as my example, can happen. Take a minute to address them if needed and then move on.
3. Leverage the Flexibility of Video Calls to Meet With as Many Employees as You Can
Assessing soft skills, like important culture-add attributes, can be difficult during the interview process. If the recruiter doesn’t offer it upfront, ask them who you’ll be meeting with. And following the interview, ask them if there’s anyone else they recommend you meet with to get a feel for the company’s culture and the people you’d be working with day in and day out. Ideally, you’ll meet with as many people across the company as possible.
During my interview, I spoke with a variety of employees — from senior executives to people who would report to me to cross-functional partners. I also met with employees of varying tenures to get a sense of how the company has evolved over the years. By having numerous conversations with a wide range of employees, I was able to get a sense of the company culture. And, ultimately, they got a better sense if I’d fit in with them too. Luckily, I made a good impression.
4. Take Your Time and Stay Engaged
It’s no secret that video calls can be wonky at times, especially if the internet is slow, your connection goes in and out, or you find yourself talking at the same time as the interviewer. Take your time answering questions. Speak clearly and distinctly so that the interviewer can take in everything you’re saying. Since you’re not in-person, it’s harder to read body language and tone, so do your best to be engaged, emotive and speak with enthusiasm.
Over-communicate your thought process. This helps ensure you and the interviewer are on the same page with what you are thinking and how you are solving the problem. In pair programming sessions, it’s sometimes required for the interviewee to look things up on their own computer. This is totally fine and acceptable. But, when doing so, make it clear with the interviewer what you are doing since they cannot see your screen.
Whether it’s for day-to-day work or interviewing for a new job, know that most of the standard advice will still hold up, even if it’s over video. When it comes to interviewing, asking questions, addressing distractions, leveraging the flexibility of video calls and staying engaged are just a few simple ways to get you started on your path to acing a virtual interview and landing the job.